National Hispanic Heritage Month: Recollections Reflecting on the Strength of our Diversity

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The vest of a Diplomatic Security Agent is pictured during an excercise on Abu Dhabi.
The vest of a Diplomatic Security Agent.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Recollections Reflecting on the Strength of our Diversity

During National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we celebrate the accomplishments of Hispanic Americans who have helped shape our great Nation.  This month is an opportunity to share our gratitude for the many contributions Hispanic American men and women make to our society and the vibrancy they weave into our culture. To commemorate this month, we sat down with several Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) colleagues of Hispanic heritage for a discussion on their backgrounds, diversity, and the role each has played in their careers. Recognizing the strength these colleagues’ diversity brings to DS and the State Department at large, we asked a few of them to share the impact their culture has had on their careers.  Here is what they shared: 

Damaris Garcia
Security Engineering Branch Chief

Diplomatic Security Training Directorate

In my culture, “family” comes first—and that includes close friends and co-workers.

When I joined the Foreign Service and began my initial training in Washington, D.C., it was the first time living on the mainland for me. It was just as “foreign” to me as living in another country.  Where I come from, humility is considered a virtue. Humility allows me to look for ways to improve and strengthen my skills, identify my limitations and weaknesses, understand and learn from my mistakes, and accept that I am not an expert in everything and need to form part of a cohesive team.  

In my culture, family comes first, and we take care of family before anything else. But “family” can mean close friends and co-workers as well to us. This means not only allowing time and space for my own work-life balance, but also encouraging it in my work environment, which means also taking care of our own colleagues when they most need it.

Jose E. Martinez
Deputy Section Chief
Engineering Service Center
U.S. Embassy Dakar

Different backgrounds and experiences make DS the skilled, professional force it is today.

From the very beginning of my career with the State Department and DS, I experienced the value they put on diversity. I was recruited right from my native Puerto Rico. Two DS security engineering officers and an HR officer were interviewing engineers in my university and recruited three of us—the other two, female engineers. That started a career of 18 years that has taken me all around the world, working with colleagues of many different backgrounds and experiences. And I think that is why DS is such a successful entity.  My Hispanic heritage made me the person that I am today—same as the heritage of my colleagues. And all those experiences and ideas together make DS the skilled and professional force that it is today.       

Yvette Rush Carbajal
Special Agent
Protective Intelligence Investigations
Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate

My ethnicity has helped others see themselves in my role—a Hispanic female with a badge.

I cannot say that my Hispanic background has helped me with my career, but rather it has helped others be able to see themselves in this role. Born and raised in California and later becoming a deputy sheriff, my ethnic background was a non-issue and closely resembled many of my colleagues. 

Transitioning over to Diplomatic Security, I did not think much about my ethnic background being any different until working a recent Latino-based career fair. I spoke to a number of female college students who gravitated to the booth because they saw a Hispanic female with a badge and were very excited to talk to me about my career. A number of other women who were attending the career fair also remarked that they were happy to see a Hispanic female as a face of law enforcement. Where I simply saw myself as a special agent, I quickly realized my identity is multifaceted.

Justin Franklin
Special Agent, Recruitment
Office of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Director

As a Panamanian American, I value DS as an agency that embraces multiple perspectives, talents.

Being a DSS special agent brings with it a unique sense of honor, responsibility, and pride. This inherent sense of pride is drawn from working alongside an immensely talented cadre of diverse DS employees. As a Panamanian American, I value being part of an agency that embraces multiple perspectives and draws talents from all segments of our society. DS has provided me with incredible professional experiences – from leading police meetings in Colombia to planning the Secretary of State’s motorcade routes with Mexican officials – all in Spanish. I look forward to continuing to serve DS and our country.  

Luis Torres-Torres
Security Engineering Officer and Division Chief
Security Countermeasures Division
Overseas Building Operations  

My Hispanic heritage has helped me understand diversity and how to relate to others. 

I joined DS in 2001 after being recruited at The University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, at a career fair. I feel that my Hispanic heritage has helped me understand diversity and how to relate to others. Being Puerto Rican, and as a lot of people say “island people are very happy,” we create an easy going atmosphere for everyone around us. I was taught since a very early age to greet everybody that I meet without regards of who they are and where they come from. This has positively affected my career in all the countries that I have worked in my 16 years with DS.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is committed to ensuring diversity among its ranks. This month, we’re honored to recognize our Hispanic American colleagues, as well as their continued contribution to U.S. national security .

About the Author: Barbara Gleason serves in the Office of Public Affairs in the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.